• Paul Barber on Albion's televised fixtures

    Yesterday, the Albion's opening fixture of the coming season was moved from a traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon to fill Sky's first Friday evening slot of the campaign.

    Since rejoining the Championship, these fixture changes have become relatively commonplace for Albion fans, but that does not change the reaction to the news from some fans, particularly those who may now miss seeing a game they were previously looking forward to.

    That angst is partially offset by the delight felt by those who can now attend the game as well that wedding ridiculously scheduled for a football season Saturday.

    With television driven fixture changes a big point of debate amongst Albion fans, we asked Paul Barber a few questions to help understand the club's view.

    How involved are the club in decisions when fixtures are selected? Do the club have any real choice, can we say 'no thanks' when Sky choose us?

    We are consulted but we would need a very good operational (for example, police-related) reason to say no to a particular selection. Sky pay a significant sum of money to The Football League, which is then shared with all 72 clubs, for the right to choose the matches they want to screen.

    That money, whilst nowhere near Premier League levels, is an important source of income for clubs and helps to fund our operations and, of course, our player budgets.

    Do we have a commitment to be live a minimum number of times in a season? Is there a minim for home AND away?

    All Championship clubs can expect to be shown live in a given season. The number of times any one club will be shown live will vary according to a range of different factors (fixture list timing, league positions, form, new signings, other stories (e.g. new manager), operational restrictions (e.g. policing or KO times for derby matches etc), ability to attract a big audience etc.

    TV rights fees are advertising and, in Sky’s case, subscriber funded so attracting the best possible TV audiences are always important.

    As the season progresses and Sky select fixtures, fans who have made transport and accommodation arrangements often miss out financially. Is there any minimum lead time Sky have to give?

    The League and Sky select matches in tranches. By definition, some of the notice given for selections at the front of any given tranche will have shorter notice than others towards the back end of that same tranche. Sky will also want their selections to have maximum impact in terms of the League’s “story” at any given point so there will always be a balance between that and the notice that can be given to supporters.

    It’s not in Sky’s or the clubs’ interests to unduly inconvenience supporters. Those supporters are often one and the same when it comes to paying for tickets and paying for TV subscriptions but there’s always going to be occasions when unfortunately supporters are inconvenienced. When I was growing up, it was often a different inconvenience for supporters – e.g. the late postponement of fixtures due to adverse weather because under-funded clubs couldn’t afford undersoil heating. TV money has improved clubs’ facilities so that this now rarely ever happens in at least the top two divisions.

    How lucrative are televised games in terms of extra revenue? Does it vary between home and away fixtures?

    Under the terms of the current TV contract, all clubs receive a guaranteed amount as part of our central revenues according to the division you are in, but only home teams receive TV money for live matches. Again, compared to Premier League level TV money, it is relatively small for live TV games but it is still certainly very much worth having – and remains a very important and valuable source of revenue.

    In the new arrangements, there will be some small adjustments to the fee according to which day of the week live games are screened on – a little more for, say, a Friday night over a Saturday lunch time.

    How do the club's attendances, measured by season ticket shows/no-shows vary when we are on TV live?

    As with all live matches, Premier League or Championship, attendances can be affected if there’s little riding on the game or if there isn’t a “story” attached to it. The Albion is no different. However, time of the season, weather, KO time, form of the team can all be factors too, live TV or no live TV.

    For example, playing Palace live on TV on a Summer Friday night won’t detract from the stadium crowd much if at all but a live TV game on the same night against less attractive opposition in the winter months might.

    It certainly isn’t in Sky’s interests to damage stadium attendances – and it’s certainly not in the club’s interests to make it hard for fans to come to games. Sky want games with full stadiums and good atmospheres. Similarly, we don’t want fans not to come to live games as the impression we give int he stadium and the atmosphere we generate can affect future live TV selections and therefore additional revenues for the club (which in my experience will always be in excess of tickets not sold).

    Those same TV revenues will go to our rivals if they don’t come to us thereby potentially boosting their player budgets and not ours. Finally, as football fans, we all often bemoan changes for live TV scheduling for matches when we play at home, but most fans are often grateful for that same live TV coverage when our matches are away as more of us get to see the game without the need to travel! Of course, this also usually means that another set of home fans are unhappy….

    Anything else?

    Yes, valuations of things like stadium naming rights, shirt sponsorships, and other smaller partner agreements have live TV matches - and highlighted coverage - factored in.

    It's therefore very important to the club's overall commercial value and future revenues that live TV game opportunities are taken when offered, not least because sponsors look at historical comparisons when valuing rights.

    I realise that all these things are quite different to times past for the Albion but they now go to make up a complex overall commercial model for the club that is not just important now but will be well in to the future.

    Our job - which I know everyone believes they can do better than us! - is to weigh up all the component parts (TV exposure, sponsorship valuations, effect on match attendances, inconvenience for supporters, support for ticket pricing, budgets for players, investment in facilities, cost of replica shirts etc etc) and come up with a mix and balance that enables the club to have the best chance of success on and off the field. One feeds the other so, inevitably, there are compromises along the way.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Prince Monolulu's Avatar
      Prince Monolulu -
      All seems pretty much as expected. It is a fact of modern day football which we need to accept. Alas, the good old days have gone, money roolz and we, as fans, must adapt accordingly.
    1. Diego Napier's Avatar
      Diego Napier -
      Thanks for that Bozza, I'd echo Prince M's thoughts with just a slight adaptation to "the old days have gone"!
    1. Bungy's Avatar
      Bungy -
      I do appreciate the club's position on this and wouldn't argue with any of the points raised. It's still a b*gger though as I have to travel down from north London on a weekday and find it difficult to get there in time. So, the more this happens, ("this" being switching from a Saturday to a mid-week fixture), the less value I get for my season ticket.
    1. MattBackHome's Avatar
      MattBackHome -
      Given these valid responses (largely summed up as "football has changed, this is the way it is these days and if we didn't play the game then we'd concede competitive advantage to other teams"), and the views of some on NSC regarding only being able to attend on Saturdays, is there a cause for the club to look at an alternative 'Saturdays only' ST?

      I genuinely don't know how it would work, but it seems that if we're accepting that the match scheduling landscape has changed, and supporter behaviour ("match consumption" bleurgh) has changed, then the model of buying tickets in batch could change too.

      But more solid responses from PB - good stuff.
    1. jamie the seagull's Avatar
      jamie the seagull -
      This season will be the last the club get my season ticket money.
      So many non-Saturday games mean the season ticket is no longer cost effective.
      The club can have the Sky money but will not be getting mine.
      It's now got to the stage that we hope for a rubbish opening game so we are not on TV...

      Still think the clubs could have questioned why a local derby (leeds/burnley) is on a Saturday whilst forest fans have to travel on a Friday night..
    1. DTES's Avatar
      DTES -
      I'm sorry, but that's a proper politician's non-answer to the question that's asked about lead times and fans who "miss out financially". Paul says fans are "inconvenienced" but that doesn't acknowledge the financial aspect... and then he changes the subject to talk about the old days.

      Missing the game is one thing, but losing out financially really is another - over the course of a season, it's very easy for long distance fans to spend more money just on unused train tickets for Sky-rearranged matches than they do on their season ticket in the first place! If it really is "a significant sum of money" then there's an obvious solution... (I realise it's never going to happen...)

      The other part of the question isn't really answered either. Ok, so Sky pick matches in tranches....... when are the tranches finalised? Does each tranche (e.g. October/November matches) have a set date after which matches can't be moved (and hence it's safe to book travel)?
    1. 8ace's Avatar
      8ace -
      Most people wouldn't be so annoyed if it wasn't in addition to games moved from 3pm for non-TV purposes.
      - Ipswich (didn't even bother to give us a reason)
      - Fulham (Brighton marathon - this clash should have been avoidable with proper planning)
    1. El Presidente's Avatar
      El Presidente -
      When you take the Devil's Shilling (in the form of Rupert Murdoch), then it's no surprise when he starts to call the tune.

      The Sky dictated change is an inconvenience, and I'm a bit grumpy that I can't get to the match on the Friday evening now, but it's not a matter of life or death.
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